Instructables
Picture of Playable Cardboard Ukulele...
This Instructable will show you how to create a playable soprano ukulele from cardboard and items found at your local hardware store (plus some tuners and strings).

A video of the cardboard uke in action can be found on YouTube.
 
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Step 1: Materials...

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Items you need for this project:

Several large shipping boxes made from corrugated cardboard.  The tighter the corrugation the better.
Several sheets of non-corrugated composite cardboard like cereal boxes or the back of notepads
2 fully threaded bolts or a threaded rod
4 geared guitar or ukulele tuners with flanged bushings
1 set of soprano ukulele strings
12 1.5" long cotter pins
2 small hinges
1 bottle of wood glue
2 wood screws (1.5 - 2 inches)

Tools:
Sharp hobby blade
Pencil
Measuring tape/Scale
Drill
Screwdriver

Step 2: Templates...

Picture of Templates...
Attached are word files (now also in PDF!) with templates for the body and neck.  Print and cut out each template.  Glue these templates onto some thin cardboard or cardstock (I used a file folder) because you will be using them a lot.  In the files, the templates are labeled as follows:

Body A: Top (aka Soundboard)
Body B:  Middle
Body C:  Back

Neck A:  Edge
Neck B: Middle

Step 3: Trace templates...

Picture of Trace templates...
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Trace the templates on to the corrugated cardboard.  You will need the following number of pieces (save some extra pieces of cardboard in case you need more later):

Body A: 1
Body B: 9
Body C: 1

Neck A: 6
Neck B: 7

Tips: 
1)  The majority of the body pieces should be cut with the lines of the cardboard running along the length of the piece.
2) Mix in a few pieces of "Body B" cut in other directions to provide strength in all directions.
3) For the neck, cut the pieces in a variety of orientations, but avoid any with the lines running along the neck.
4) Avoid any areas of the cardboard that has dents or wrinkles. 

Step 4: A couple more...

Picture of A couple more...
Trace Body A and Body B onto non-corrugated composite carboard sheet (the back of a legal pad or thick cereal box should work).  Do not cut the notch out of the Body B piece.
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azrin.noor1 month ago

can we replace the nylon string with the guitar string?

mbeveridge made it!7 months ago

I helped my daughter make it for a 7th grade science assignment. We had to modify because she could only use "recycled" items and no musical instrument parts. We used different weights of nylon fishing line for the strings, toothpicks for the frets and eyebolts and nuts for the tuners. The only thing we bought was the small hinges. The "paint" job was done using food coloring and shaving cream on thin stock that we attached to the composite board before putting it together. (We did have to make the neck thinner.) When it was all together, it worked great!!!! My daughter was so happy! She wants to make more: one for her orchestra director (a ukulele fanatic) and for herself but this time using the instrument parts.

Thank you so much for creating this Instructable!!!!!

On a separate note, do you have any suggestions for a cutting utensil? We used an Exacto knife but had an extremely difficult cutting through the layers.

Ukulele.jpg

I've used this cardboard cutter with my students... takes a few weeks to come in but works quite well.

eplunkett (author)  mbeveridge7 months ago
Awesome! It looks amazing! I'm so excited to hear about your improvements to the design... The tuners and strings are exactly the updates that I wanted to make to the design so that it would be totally possible to build without buying any ukulele specific hardware. A trip to the "Fix-n-Feed" could get you everything you need. Hope she does well on her project and I am very glad you shared with me!

P.s. Love the colors!

A+, thank you! And it was the only instrument that met the criteria being heard from the back of the room AND gave her extra credit for also being able to play a tune that was recognizable. Her orchestra instructor also was impressed. I believe his exact words were "very cool!"

eplunkett (author)  mbeveridge7 months ago
Oh yeah, I used an exacto blade to cut it, but just because that's what I had. Someone said they were going to try to lay it up and glue it and then use a band saw or scroll saw. No reports back on that. I've built 3 and I used the exacto on all of them.
Baeyuutiful3 months ago

Okay so I have Three questions,
1) What size hinges are you using?
2) How thick are the threaded bolts/ nut you used?
3) I'm considering also having the uke electric, are there any directions to construct it in the electric format you have available for me?
Ps Awesome instructable c: Thanks!

jnovoa3 made it!3 months ago

Came out pretty good in my opinion though I used pencils with notches in them for the nut and bridge and toothpicks for frets. There is quite a bit of a curve on the neck because I rushed to get the strings on I guess but it's still playable. :D

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avella13 months ago

can you use hot glue gun

thanks im really interested in this project

avella13 months ago

can you use hot glue gun

thanks im really interested in this project

ahauta7 months ago
I started my own and its coming together very easily and quickly. Thank you very much for this instructable. Very clear helpful and informative.
eplunkett (author)  ahauta7 months ago
Glad to hear you've started one.... Post some pics when you've got it all done!
breanashalice7 months ago

thank you so much for the instructable.. Very simple and easy to do. I did cut myself but its all good because I can now say that I made a homemade instrument and not just any one, but a freakin ukulele!!!!!!!

eplunkett (author)  breanashalice7 months ago
Sweet, glad to hear you made one! Do you have any pics you can post? I would love to see them!
jfrost811 months ago
Hi, thanks for this instructable, it looks awesome! I´m trying to make it now but i´m a bit stuck on step 11/12. the neck is way too thick, I can only fit about 6 on there. should I cut the notch wider or leave out some pieces? Also what´s the difference between the a and b neck pieces, is it important?
thank you
eplunkett (author)  jfrost89 months ago
Did you get your issue figured out? Sounds like your using some thick cardboard for the neck. It's probably okay just to trim the neck pieces and fit the 6 of them in there.

The a and b pieces are differently shaped in order to simulate a rounded neck. It's not necessary, but will be easier to play.
jfrost8 eplunkett9 months ago

Sort of...I measured how many pieces made a normal neck size and used that. The uke funcioned after some adjustments but the cardboard is far too weak for the string tension, bends like crazy, even after attempts to brace it with small pieces of wood on the sides. I think I need to make the neck from wood. How did yours not bend? Thanks for the reply :]

sierrachello12 months ago
This is awesome! Planning to build this Classic cardboard ukulele. Will post pics soon.

-Lloyd of Philippines
isaakol12 months ago
I don't know what I did wrong but the neck of my ukulele is not more bended because of the tension of the strings... do you think you have a trick to make it bended again
isaakol1 year ago
it worked!!! i carved a little bit my fret board and the note is right.

here's a photo of my ukulele
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eplunkett (author)  isaakol1 year ago
Awesome! Looks really goo! I'm glad it worked out and thanks for sharing your picture!
isaakol1 year ago
i will try this and i will tell you if it work
isaakol1 year ago
but i don't think its a fret problem. i think its more a problem of hight of the string (sorry if its bad... i'm a french canadian)
eplunkett (author)  isaakol1 year ago
Looks like you are probably right... Your measurements look good. Are your frets glued down? I found that a few of my frets were sticking up and would touch the string at the wrong time. If you put a straight edge across all the frets you can pick out the high ones. Also, you can try to shim the bridge a litter higher if this is the problem as it will make it slightly less likely that the string will touch other frets.
isaakol1 year ago
nut to bridge: 33.5cm
nut to first fret: 1.880cm
BenBurge1 year ago
I'd made one from your directions awhile ago, but never got around to posting it!
I installed a little piezo pickup too!
I also printed of my my favorite band's singer on the front, and even got it signed!
Awesome instructable!
(the image uploader's being glitchy, but here's a link to some pics! http://imgur.com/o42Cgl1,R6A7gAg,OOz6oG8,UZIhVGW )
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eplunkett (author)  BenBurge1 year ago
Cool! I also built an electric version Flying V style with a piezo pickup. The guy at radio shack told me it wouldn't work, but it works wonderfully. Glad to see it has worked for you too... Like the special touches!
I completed the ukulele (with changes) i had to make the neck out of a chair i found because someone stepped on the card board one and broke it. I used bamboo twigs for frets and used a picture hanger for the string base. And of course, Bob is the only suitable name for a home made ukulele :)
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eplunkett (author)  the "wow shammy"1 year ago
I don't know how I am just seeing this now. I like the friction tuners. I've been doing some brainstorming about how to make some hardware store "friction" tuners compatible with cardboard. Not time to experiment right now. Maybe one day. I like your improvisation.
isaakol1 year ago
thank a lot for this instructable. it was awesome to create this ukulele from cardboard and it work perfectly. except one little problem... I tuned the strings and all but when I press a fret, its not the sound that is supposed to be. do you think you can help me with this?
eplunkett (author)  isaakol1 year ago
Perhaps. Is it all the frets that are wrong? Can you send me the Distance from the nut to the bridge? Then send me the distance from the nut to the first fret.
gboy11971 year ago
Just one quick question, how would you rate the durability of the uke? I mean, I'm not going to go about smashing it or anything, but I just don't want the thing to be destroyed by a minor accident, you know? Does all the cardboard packed together keep the uke pretty sturdy?
ltafalla1 year ago
can i use foam bord from dollar tree ?
two questions
one: where do you get the tuners just at a music store?
two: do you have to use the correct carb-board
eplunkett (author)  DIY and STUFF1 year ago
1) You can buy tuners at music stores. You don't have to get ukulele specific tuners. I bought one set at a little shop and another set on amazon.com. They key is that you get tuners that have a flanged bushing.... not all of them have that.

2) I'm not sure what kind of card board you are considering. I'm sure that there are other types of cardboard that would work for this project. I chose to use mostly corrugated cardboard because it is stiff and its strength to weight ratio is high. Also, I had a lot of it. If you make it out of something else and it works, I would be interested to see the results.

Good Luck!
Thank you i will look into that
look what your instructable made my kitchen table into lol
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eplunkett (author)  DIY and STUFF1 year ago
I love it!
I am trying your method with !/2" plywood and 1/8 plywood sound board and back by your plans. Did bust band saw cutting curve. ues my scroll saw I am currently sanding body and need to cut neck. will post pick here need to pull camera out.
eplunkett (author)  [Silver Dragon]1 year ago
I am really interested to see how this project turns out!
GCR1 year ago
Could I paint this? Or would that mess with the resonance?

Thanks!
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